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During the 19 months he spent with the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific, Joe Kenney socked away his $114 a month in military pay. When World War II ended, he put his name on a waiting list for a new car.

"When you got out of the service, the first thing you wanted was wheels," says Mr. Kenney, now the owner of Miller Safety Products, Pittsburgh.

Mr. Kenney waited six months for a green four-door 1946 Ford, the first new car in his family. "I had more money than I ever had before," said Mr. Kenney, who took the new car on a 10-day jaunt from his home in Somerset, Mass., visiting New York City, Buffalo, Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City and Portland, Maine.

For Americans like Mr. Kenney, the loss of the automotive industry during the war increased the desire for cars, and postwar prosperity brought cars within more people's reach.

It wasn't just the automobile industry that boomed. The other big winner in transportation was the airline industry; conversely, rail and bus travel began to fade.

Even with the Civil Aeronautics Act in 1938, air passenger travel was "pretty primitive" before World War II, said Richard Gritta, professor of business administration with a specialty in the airline industry at the University of Portland (Ore.). "There was a lot of innovation during World War II-new air frames, new designs."

After V-E Day, the U.S. awarded Trans World Airlines and American Overseas Airlines, an American Airlines subsidiary, the right to compete on North Atlantic routes, ending a monopoly by Pan Am. By the following year, Dutch airline KLM, Air France and Britain's BOAC were flying into New York.

The New York Yankees contracted with United Airlines in 1946 to become the first sports team to fly to its away games. A year later, the sound barrier was broken by a 24-year-old test pilot, Chuck Yeager.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, intercity passenger miles traveled by air increased from 4.3 billion in 1945 to 16.3 billion in 1950, while those traveled by rail fell from 93.5 billion to 32.5 billion. Intercity travel by bus declined from 27.4 billion passenger miles to 22.7 billion miles.

Air travel would pass bus transportation in passenger miles by the mid-1950s, and rail by the end of that decade. In 1993, U.S. air passenger miles topped 370 billion, or 10 times the combined total of bus and rail travel.

Meanwhile, car sales took off fast after the war. According to the DOT, motor-vehicle factory sales went from 2.1 million vehicles in 1946 to a record 6.7 million vehicles in 1950.

Possibly nothing changed the postwar cultural landscape as much as the automobile.

The family car became the key to the new tourism, and motels replaced hotels to serve travelers on the interstates that were designed for faster and safer auto travel. Fast-food restaurants sprang up to serve people on wheels.

Urban freeways allowed people to commute miles to work, stimulating a huge exodus to suburbs. And as they acquired their own cars, postwar teen-agers became increasingly independent of their parents' rules.

But in 1945, peace was uppermost in everyone's mind-and in car ads. An ad for General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac said, "In peace or war there is no substitute for quality," and said that its engines provided "peacetime power with a wartime job."

Near the end of the war, Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln ran a series of ads that anticipated the end of fighting. "There's a depth of longing to be satisfied when peace returns and faraway places again are calling," copy read in one ad.

A post-V-E Day Buick ad, featuring a yellow 1942 convertible, was headlined, "So nice to come home to!" and included Buick's theme line of the era, "When better automobiles are built, Buick will build them."

J. Walter Thompson Co. took over the Ford brand account in 1943, and began running ads illustrated with a crystal ball and carrying the theme, "There's a Ford in your future."

Jack Keenan, who had served in an Army armored division in Europe, took his sketch books into JWT's Detroit office and landed a $32-a-week job in the creative department in November 1945.

"The secrecy of new-car announcements was incredible," he recalled. "Dealers took butcher's paper and covered their windows. They would bring in spotlights to the front of the store, and we would run teaser advertising. What a great time we had."

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